Monday, October 29, 2012

GERMANY - Second Weekend (Frankfurt)

Saturday: Our plan for this day was to head to Frankfurt, spend some time browsing the Sachsenhausen Flohmarkt (Flea Market), go to the museum, eat some Thai food, and then head home. The best laid plans...

We decided to head out early in the morning so we could be in Frankfurt around 9:30 or 10 a.m. The flea market is open on Saturdays only from 9 - 2. We were up around 6:30 so we could catch the bus at 7:18. I grabbed my clothes out of my suitcase and my shirt felt a bit wet. Hmmm...I brought it to my nose and smelled that gross, pungent aroma of cat pee. The cat had peed in my suitcase the evening before. GAH!!!!! Thankfully, he hadn't peed on all of my clothes so I was still able to get dressed, but this was not the way I wanted to start my day. 

We had some tea and the berliners I had purchased the day before. We bundled up and headed into the still dark morning. As we stepped outside, we saw it was raining a bit so we hurried to the bus stop. As we did the power walk down the road, we realized it was not rain. It was snow. Snow was pelting us through the air. We should have turned around and gone back home at that point, but no. We are hearty travelers, people intent on our mission. We made it to the bus stop, which thankfully had a small, shed-like shelter over it so that was a plus. We waited for the bus. And waited. And waited some more. It was supposed to be there at 7:18. It was now 7:25. And 7:30. And finally the bus arrived about 7:35. A little over 15 minutes late, which you wouldn't think would be a problem, but we arrived at our train station stop just as our train was pulling away. CURSES! 

At this point it was snowing, we were cold, we had missed our train, and the next one wasn't scheduled to come for another hour. We seriously considered heading to Darmstadt instead for a day of shopping, but no, I was insistent we must go to Frankfurt, I wanted to see the museum and the flea market. My boyfriend is such a good sport. There was a nearby grocery store so we went there and sat at the bakery counter where we had a pastry and some tea. It was a good (warm) way to pass the hour until our train came. Finally, we went back outside and the train arrived.

We had to change trains a couple of times on our way to Frankfurt, but we made it at last. We had a map and we went to the tourist information counter in the Hauptbahnhof (the train station) to find out where we needed to be exactly. The flea market is located on the bank of the river in Sachsenhausen  We headed over there. It was COLD. The snow was still coming down, although it wasn't sticking to the ground. Still, the air was frigid and the temperature was dropping by the second. 

We made it to the flea market and it was a bust. Not many vendors were out there and of those that were, several were packing it up to head home. It was about 10:30/11. I couldn't blame them at all. It was so cold. We hurried through the vendors that were there and then found a cafe where we had tea and shelter. We studied the map to find out how to get to the Senckenberg Museum. Our plan had been to go to the flea market for a couple of hours, eat lunch at Thai Express, and then head to the museum. Since the flea market was a bust, we flipped the plan and decided on the museum and then Thai Express for lunch. 

We weren't exactly sure how to get to where we needed to be to catch the bus/train to the museum so my boyfriend asked the elderly woman seated near us. She was very nice, but couldn't help. Later, my Thomas asked her to take our photo. She did so. She asked if the photo was good (in German) and I said to Thomas (who speaks both German and English) that it was OK, the lighting was a bit off, but it was fine. The woman then said to me in English "Is it really OK?" She had a British accent when she said this. And I said "Oh, you speak English. Are you from England?" She told me that after World War II, her parents had sent her from Germany to England to be educated there since Germany had basically been flattened by the war. She spent many years in England before returning to Germany. The people you meet when you travel are just amazing!

After that, we headed out to the museum. We walked a few blocks before finding the train station. It was freezing, but I always look at these things as an adventure and luckily, so does Thomas. We found the station and got on the train. It was the wrong one. There was someone on the train who told us which one we needed so we went back the other direction and found the right train. After departing at the train station, we walked several more blocks to the museum. I was absolutely frozen at this point, but the museum was a lot of fun. They had dinosaurs, fish, geologic items, and so on. It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours. 

After the museum, more walking was in store for us. We went to the train station and got out where we thought we needed to be to find Thai Express. We were hungry at this point and really in need of some food. We walked and walked, looking at our map and pondering if we were in the right place or not. We asked a taxi driver to help us find the street and he pointed us in the direction we should go. That did not help, we still could not find it. Finally, we asked a worker at an open to the street sandwich shop and she said she had no idea. We walked a few feet past the shop. I have a habit of looking around at the different shops and streets when I travel and it's a good thing because I turned to look and there, right across the street, was Thai Express! VICTORY!!!

We were so happy to find the restaurant and have a chance to sit and eat some good food in a warm environment. We ordered and ate. It was not bad. I do not like Thai food as a general rule, but Thomas does so I was happy to eat there. I can always find something on the menu at any place so I had beef and rice and gave my wonderful boyfriend the stir-fried vegetables that came with it. A win for us both :)

After the Thai restaurant, we headed to the big mall called the Zeil Galerie. We were not planning on purchasing anything, but it was neat to look at. It has an interesting design. We stopped in the food court and had ice cream. One of my goals in Germany was to find Spaghetti Eis. I absolutely love it and I have not found anything equivalent in the U.S. so I really wanted some. The ice cream place in the mall had it and they brought it to our table. DELICIOUS!!

We rested a bit at the mall and then headed out to catch our train. We rode for a bit and Thomas said our stop was coming up so we had to get out. Unfortunately, it was the wrong stop and the next train that would get us to where we needed to be arrived in an hour. And, that train would take us back to Frankfurt before depositing us at our stop. Whatever, we didn't care, we just wanted to be home at this point. I spotted a hotel/restaurant/bar and we walked over there hoping they would be open. They didn't look open, but it turned out they were. THANK GOD. 

We had tea in the restaurant, chatted, and rested before heading out to the train and catching it. It was a long ride back to Frankfurt and then to our stop in Reinheim. Finally, we made it to Reinheim. As we exited the train and it pulled away, Thomas realized his cell phone was on the train seat. GAH!!!! It was OK because the phone was older and it was a pre-paid card inside so no major money is lost, but still. It was just one of those "Really? This day has SUCKED" kind of things. 

Our last bus, the one that would take us home, was scheduled to arrive in about an hour. This was the same place where we had started our journey (and missed our first train) so we headed back to the same grocery store K&U bakery counter where we once again had tea and relaxed until the bus arrived. The bus came and we got on, along with about 50 teenagers who were obviously headed to some party. Several of them had alcoholic drinks in their hands. Thomas explained that you are allowed to drink beer and wine at 16 and harder liquor at 18. These kids were probably about 15/16 so that explained it. I find the concept of taking the bus to the party kind of funny, but then they cannot get a driver's license in Germany until they are 18 so I guess you do what you have to do to get to the party.

Finally, we arrived home around 9:30. It was a very long and cold day. A hot shower was SO welcoming and my sweet boyfriend made tea. We relaxed for a bit before heading to bed, both of us just so happy to be home at last.

Sunday: We did absolutely nothing on this day except visit Thomas's grandmother for about 45 minutes. We had Hawaiian meatballs, potatoes, and corn for dinner and just stayed inside. Perfect way to recover from the trauma of Saturday!

Friday, October 26, 2012

GERMANY - Week Two (Part II)

Thursday: Very early Thursday morning I awoke with severe pain. I've had this pain before and the only thing that can cure it is laying down and sleeping. So that is what I did once I took some medicine and prayed that I wouldn't die. That last part is totally necessary with this particular pain because I worry that I will die and then I hope that I will. Anyway, I spent most of the day resting. I felt better around noon, the stabbing portion of the pain had stopped, but it was still there just under the surface so I knew that this would not be a productive, get out there and do things kind of day. And that was fine. Sometimes you just need to let your body guide you. P.S. - Getting old sucks.

In the evening, I was hungry so we headed out to the local Pizzeria, which also serves my now beloved döner. Those things are God's gift to His children, folks for real! Anyway, I had a döner and Thomas had a döner pizza. About 3/4th of the way through the meal, the pain returned. We headed home shortly after that and I laid on the couch doing my convalescing thing. 

Friday: Thankfully, I felt better and was able to be more productive on this day. I headed into town and went to the bank and then the bakery, where I purchased berliners of course. And one croissant for lunch. Thomas comes home early on Fridays so we made our grocery list and headed to the discounter to do the weekly shopping. We planned dinner for next week - two meals and two sets of leftovers then probably one dinner out somewhere. We walked to the discounter and spotted a chicken truck out front. After shopping, we picked up some chicken and fries for lunch. Neither of us felt like making food for lunch because the walk to/from the grocery store was a bit rough since we were carrying our purchases and it was cold out. Really cold. My lungs think I'm trying to cryogenically preserve them.

Anyway, we returned home and ate our lunch then had an easy afternoon of hanging out. We planned our weekend trip to Frankfurt where we have some fun activities in mind. Stay tuned for the recap of those!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

GERMANY - Week Two (Part I)

Monday: This was an easy day at home. Sometime during the day, I visited the discounter (the local small supermarket) and bought some ice cream (Neapolitan), some Cherry Coke for Thomas, and I stocked up on the Peanut M&Ms and Haribo Gummy Frogs. I looked like an American college student who smokes a lot of pot with those grocery choices. LOL! For the record, I have never smoked pot in my life, but I have eaten like I do. Often.

At the bakery inside the discounter, I noticed they had apple berliners. SCORE! I had been hoping to find these somewhere. Most berliners have marmalade or pudding. I am not interested in marmalade at all and I had not tried the pudding ones, but I really wanted apple. I had already eaten breakfast so I decided I would return on Tuesday for the apple berliners. That did not have a happy ending. See Tuesday's entry for why.

I headed over to what I now refer to as my "regular" bakery with the intent of picking up a croissant for lunch. I saw that they had mini-pizzas and immediately changed my mind and picked up one of the delicious-looking tomato and cheese creations. Turns out it wasn't so delicious, but it was passable. Live and learn.

In the evening, we headed out to dinner at a small restaurant here that was having Bavaria week. Contrary to popular belief, Bavaria does not refer to all of Germany. Like the U.S., Germany is divided into areas that often have their own dialect, food, and customs. Bavaria is in the southeast of Germany and is the second largest "state" in the country. It encompasses Munich. I am in the state of Hesse, which encompasses Frankfurt.

Anyway, Bavarian food is pretty good, I had sausage and potato salad. We were the only customers in the place for food. This was a little restaurant with a small bar. When we walked in, a group of men were playing poker. It looked like Thursday night poker at someone's home. They were smoking, drinking, and playing the game with a lot of laughter and fun. Nice to see people having a good time!

What wasn't so nice was the deplorable service. The man who was running the place (and there was only one) took our drink orders fairly quickly, but after that, it was like he couldn't be bothered. We got menus off another table ourselves and then it took quite awhile for him to come back and take our order. I finally waved at him. He waved back and then it was at least a minute or two before he came over. I am not one of these impatient people who can't wait for a server to come over when they are busy. But this guy wasn't doing anything. He was behind the bar shooting the breeze with customers sitting there.

In any case, it was good to get out of the house and have a delicious meal so I can't really complain all that much. Besides that, I am generally loving being in a foreign country and having the opportunity to try different foods and enjoy the scenery.

We headed home and enjoyed some cake for dinner that we had picked up at the bakery on Sunday. Excellent stuff! We also planned our trip to Frankfurt this weekend. Very excited to go to the Saturday flea market, see the museum and have fun!

Tuesday: This day dawned cloudy and cold. I had planned on walking to the bakery to get a croissant for lunch as has become my usual custom, but I dumped that idea in favor of going to the discounter (the local small supermarket) because it is closer and I didn't want to be outside too long in the cold weather. As mentioned already, I had been to the discounter on Monday and spied the holy grail of apple berliners. I planned to return today to get some. But no. It was not to be. On this day, they had no apple berliners. Only marmalade. The was great. But, such is life and I bought some soup and ham for lunch. So all was not lost. 

A quick note to explain the soup situation - I am terrible with pronunciation of most foreign languages. Two years of French in college and I can barely speak a word of it, literally! My pronunciation is just that bad. But, I had made the effort since January to try to learn some German and I've gotten very good at reading and writing it. As I stood in the soup aisle at the discounter, I was fairly certain that the soup I had chosen was chicken and rice. I was about 98% sure of this because I recognized the word for chicken on the label. Or at least, I was hoping I was right. 

I got home, opened the can and found that I was indeed correct! So chicken and rice soup, ham, and some pepperoni for lunch. Not a bad meal really. Following lunch, I cleaned some dishes (we were out of forks so I just washed all of those) and peeled some potatoes in preparation for dinner. I also watched Prison Wives on Netflix. OMG. That is going to be a whole separate posting once my Germany travel posts are over. I also started reading this message board about the show. Funny stuff there, but also very sad and very true. 

Anyway, back to regularly scheduled travel topic - the evening consisted of bratwurst and potatoes for dinner followed by some Peanut M&Ms for dessert. We watched TV, I played on my Kindle and took a little nap before heading to bed for the whole night. 

Wednesday: Another cold day in the land of wurst and schnitzels! The day dawned once again cold and cloudy. It is currently 50 degrees at 11:20 a.m. I walked into town and went to two different bakeries. I had never been to one of them so I thought I would give it a try. It smelled delicious in there and I talked to the clerk a little bit. She knew a little English and I know a little German in terms of speaking (see above about horrible pronunciation) so it worked out. I bought a couple of pastries and a slice of cake. I have eaten one of the pastries for breakfast, the other will be saved for tomorrow. The cake will be dessert this evening. I went to the other bakery (my usual one) and purchased berliners. Two for Thomas and one for me. I decided to give the pudding berliners a try since apple filled ones were nowhere to be found.

DELICIOUS! The pudding is vanilla and the soft pastry dough around that filling is so delicious. I ate it on the way home. I will definitely be back tomorrow to purchase more for the rest of the week/weekend.

Monday, October 22, 2012

GERMANY - First Weekend

Saturday: The weekend was pretty easy going. Saturday was simple, I slept and played with Moritz, the resident house cat, surfed the Internet and just generally did a whole lot of nothing. Which is totally awesome when your life is pretty full back home. Just saying.

Sunday: The day dawned bright, clear, and warm. The morning started with a trip to the bakery for croissants and bread. It was a nice walk into town. The bakery was crowded, it's one of the few shops open on Sundays here. But the line moved quickly. We also picked up some homemade strawberry jam at the bakery. OMG, delicious!!!

View of Frankisch-Crumbach on the way down the hill.
We had breakfast and then did some laundry and had some do-nothing, listen to music time. We then took a walk to the forest area. It was a beautiful walk past vast fields with beautiful flowers, cows, and just generally gorgeous scenery. We stopped at the entrance to the forest and enjoyed the view from the gazebo there. It was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The walk was up a very steep hill in some parts, but it was great exercise!

We came home and listened to music, did some laundry, and puttered about. We also planned next weekend's trip to Frankfurt for shopping and the museum. Then we headed into town once again to get Döners for dinner. SO DELICIOUS!!! They give you SO much food and though I want to eat all of it, it's just not possible. We ate outside and watched people go by, just enjoying our food, the weather, and the scenery. 

The walk to the forest tired me out so I went to bed early. Starting another week now in Germany and loving every moment! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

GERMANY - Week One!

Sunday: This was the day I arrived and it was a low-key day, which is what I needed. We took the train and bus home from the airport. It was a cloudy and cool day and we rested and had a great dinner of spaghetti. We watched some TV and then it was off to bed. A good first day especially with needing to adjust to the time change.

Monday: I did nothing at all. I had planned for this to be a "get settled in" day and that is exactly what it was. I ate and I rested. I played on the Internet. I arranged things in my suitcase for easier access. Just the little things you do when you're settling in somewhere.

Tuesday: My first day of venturing out to the town! I walked into town on a beautiful path (see picture) and took photos of things along the way. I stopped at the bank to get some Euros and I found the bakery so I can return and purchase some Berliners (doughnuts with jelly inside, so good!) and bread.

Wednesday: I planned to return to the bakery for the purchase of said Berliners and also to wander the town some more. This did not happen. Instead, I laid down for a "few minutes" at 9 a.m. and woke up at 3:00 p.m. Hmmmm...6 hours is a few minutes depending on your definition of "a few" right? Right. Yeah. Oh well, Wednesday evening was spent walking around the town with Thomas and having dinner at a wonderful restaurant. I had schnitzel and fried potatoes as well as one of the best salads I've ever eaten. Fanta was the drink of the evening. Yes, Germany has many good beers, but I do not drink alcohol at all and I limit my soda drinking generally so soda is a treat for me. Dessert was ice cream with whipped cream in a glass. YUM!

Thursday: I ventured into town leisurely strolling along with my iPod shuffle. I was nearly run over by a car backing out of a driveway and then once again by a car coming down the road so I thought perhaps the iPod was not a good idea since I wasn't paying attention with it on. I took it off and continued strolling through town. It's so beautiful here, the fall weather is gorgeous and the leaves on the trees have the orange and brown fall colors.

I stopped at the "discounter," which is basically like a small supermarket. I bought some Peanut M&Ms and Haribo Gummy Frogs. I couldn't believe they had the gummy frogs, those things are hard to find in the U.S. sometimes and they are my favorite gummy candy! After that, I ventured through town just looking at this and that and taking photos of various buildings. I then made my way to a bookstore where I purchased post cards. The bakery is right next door so I got two Berliners and a croissant.  The croissant was lunch for me today. I also ate some M&Ms. Vacation food for sure - a croissant and M&Ms for lunch (plus a few gummy frogs).

I made my way back home where a nap seemed to be the best plan since I had been up since around 5 a..m. and I never sleep well anyway. So I napped.

We decided on Döners for dinner. Delicious meat and sauce with lettuce and tomatoes. SO GOOD! A local restaurant here has them so we got them for take-out and ate at home. I spent the rest of the evening resting and playing with Moritz, the resident cat. Well, actually, I mostly slept and Moritz slept on me and I petted him occasionally. It was a restful evening after all the food I had eaten. The Döner was delicious, but there was so much of it! YUM!

Friday: I decided to try using the local bus system to go a couple of towns over to meet Thomas at work and have pizza. The bus system is much the same as in the U.S. and I didn't find the language barrier to be too much of a problem. They basically understand what you need. I took the bus to Thomas's work and then we had pizza. It was not bad at all! I had the standard pepperoni and cheese pizza and though it was just a bit spicier than I usually like it, it was good. The serving size is fairly large as well, I could not finish it. After that, we took the bus home and I slept for a couple of hours on the couch before heading to bed. That is becoming something of a habit for me because I am so tired by the time 7 or 8 p.m. rolls around. I have been up much earlier than I normally am here. I need to get on a more regular sleeping schedule, but that is true at home too. In any case, I look forward to the weekend!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

GERMANY - The Flight

I boarded the non-stop flight to Germany on Saturday, October 13th. The plane took off at 4:40 p.m. and it was a little under 9 hours to Frankfurt from Houston. The flight wasn't bad. I had hoped to sleep on the plane, but my plans were thwarted when I got out my Sky Rest pillow, inflated it, and realized there were holes in it. Disappointment! I knew then that sleep was not going to happen. I was able to "rest" in that I closed my eyes for a few minutes here and there, but it wasn't real sleep of course.

In any case, the flight was fine. I watched the pilot episode of Sex and the City, which was available for free on the monitor behind each seat. They had other TV shows and movies for free as well. It was a nice selection and some of them were much newer than the SATC pilot episode. Surprisingly, the food wasn't bad on the flight. Dinner was chicken and rice with vegetables as well as a roll. Breakfast was fruit, a roll, omelet and potatoes. It wasn't enough food, but it wasn't bad in taste.

One interesting note about the flight - I had purchased some Mountain Dew in the airport as a treat for myself on the flight. I don't drink it often, but I love it. The German flight attendant saw the Mountain Dew and said "Oh, Go Go Juice. You know this reference? Honey Boo Boo. I just love that kid!" There are no words for the embarrassment my friends. NO. WORDS. Although the stewardess apparently likes the show, I am embarrassed that people from foreign countries are seeing things like this and that it is a representation in some way of America. UGH. Depression. Serious.

Moving on, I landed in Frankfurt in the morning around 9 a.m. It was easy to get through passport control and it went quickly. The airport was also easy to navigate. My boyfriend, Thomas, picked me up and we made our way home via train and bus and that was also easy. Germany has a great transportation system, which is awesome. I am staying in a small town called Fränkisch-Crumbach, which is not far from Frankfurt. It's a beautiful little town and I look forward to my adventures in Germany! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Guten Tag!

This blog entry comes to you all the way from Germany where I arrived yesterday morning from Houston! I will be staying here for a month. I was born in Germany to American parents. My father was serving with the U.S. Army at the time and my mother couldn't quite make it to the hospital on the Army base so I was born in Gelnhausen in the German hospital. Consequently, I had dual citizenship for many years, although I no longer have it. 

In any case, I've always been drawn to this country and I have been here a few times before, but the last time was in 1995 when I was 19. I have spent the last 8 months planning this trip so I can take a month off from work and still pay the bills. I managed to do it and yesterday I boarded Lufthansa flight 441 in Houston for the non-stop almost 9-hour flight to Germany. I landed in Frankfurt about 9:00 a.m. I am staying in a small town not far from Frankfurt and I am loving it so far.

Come back to my blog for all the boring, wonderful, interesting, amazing details of my adventures in Deutschland!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I see the assassins have failed

I have long contended that humor is the only way to make it through both the joys and sorrows of life. So, a collection of funny things I've recently come across: